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Pavel Francouz of the Colorado Avalanche makes a save against Zach Hyman of the Edmonton Oilers during the third period in Game One of the Western Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Ball Arena on May 31, 2022 in Denver, Colorado.JUSTIN EDMONDS/Getty Images

Well, now that was something.

The Oilers and Avalanche came out blazing in the first game of their third-round playoff series on Tuesday night and generated as much electricity as the Hoover Dam.

J.T. Compher scored twice for Colorado in an 8-6 victory before a deafening home audience at Ball Arena. At one point Edmonton trailed 7-3 in the second period before it stormed back.

The Oilers will try to even things up when the teams meet here again on Thursday. After that, the best-of-seven affair will resume in Edmonton on Saturday.

The contest was as much a track meet as you will find in the NHL. Both clubs are blazing fast and pretty much matched goals before the Avalanche pulled ahead in the second. Twice Colorado responded quickly after goals by the Oilers – once in 36 seconds and another time in just eight.

Between them, the teams combined to take 84 shots.

Edmonton goalie Mike Smith was yanked only five minutes into the second period after being scored on six times on 25 of them. Mikko Koskinen came off the bench and stopped all but one of 20 attempts and kept the Oilers in the game.

“To a man we weren’t good enough defensively,” Jay Woodcroft, the Oilers’ coach, said. “When you score six goals you should win. We gave up far too much tonight.”

In the first game of the second round, Edmonton lost to Calgary, 9-6. Smith was pulled early in that one, too.

“When you give up touchdowns in Game 1s, it’s not a good sign,” Smith said.

Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon charged into this encounter in the Stanley Cup playoffs like two Marvel hockey heroes.

The silky-smooth Oilers captain seemingly glides over the ice as if riding on a magic carpet. With his strength and speed, the Avalanche’s superstar centre is more a bronco – he does play in Denver, after all.

Naturally they are the focal point of this much-anticipated matchup between the league’s most explosive teams.

MacKinnon registered a goal in the first period, his ninth in his 11th postseason contest, and also had an assist. Colorado bogged down and mostly bottled up McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who each entered the evening with 26 points in 12 playoff games.

McDavid was “limited” to a goal and two assists. Draisaitl had two helpers.

Personal achievements aside, both McDavid and MacKinnon seek to go farther in the postseason than ever before. It is the first trip to Round 3 in the Oilers captain’s seven-year NHL career; for MacKinnon it is the first in nine. McDavid, who now has 152 points in 2021-2022, is just 25. MacKinnon already seems to have been around forever but is still only 26.

“It feels like we have been on the rise for the last five years,” MacKinnon said of his Colorado squad during an availability with journalists on Monday. “There have been a lot of second-round losses, but it felt like we were better each time if that makes sense.

“It is nice to finally break out a little bit and get closer to our final goal.”

The Avalanche fell behind five minutes into the game when Evander Kane put the Oilers ahead 1-0. It was Kane’s league-leading 13th goal of the playoffs. Compher got the goal back only 36 seconds later and it was tied at 1-1.

MacKinnon skated around Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse on a charge to the net and beat Smith to give Colorado a 2-1 lead with 4:50 left in the first period. Then Edmonton’s Zach Hyman scored with only 23 seconds remaining – the ninth of the postseason for the former Maple Leaf – and it looked like the teams would retire to their dressing rooms even again.

Only nine seconds later Cale Makar ripped a shot over Smith’s shoulder and the Avs took their second lead. The Oilers challenged the goal for offside and it ended up costing them when Nazem Kadri, another former Maple Leaf, scored 32 seconds into the second period on the power play that ensued.

“That’s not why we won or lost the game,” Woodcroft said of the challenge that went awry. “That stuff happens and you have to live with it and move on.

Ryan McLeod brought Edmonton to within 4-3 and then the dam burst. Mikko Rantanen, Compher and Andrew Cogliano each chipped in a goal and Colorado took what appeared to be a comfortable 7-3 lead. McDavid scored late in the second to give the Oilers a glimmer of hope, and then Derek Ryan scored early in the third to bring Edmonton to within 7-5. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made it 7-6 on a power play with 8:41 left. Gabriel Landeskog scored on an empty-netter with 22 seconds remaining for the final margin of victory.

The Avalanche last made it to the Western Conference final in 2002 and won their last Stanley Cup in 2001. Edmonton lost in the Cup final in 2006 to Carolina and won its most recent Cup in 1990.

Colorado rolled through the regular season with a 56-19-7 record, swept Nashville in the first round and eliminated St. Louis in six in the second. It set a franchise record with 56 wins and 119 points en route to winning the Central Division and securing the top seed in the West.

That Edmonton is here at all is a surprise. Most pundits expected Calgary to be the opposition.

The Oilers see-sawed between excellence and ineptitude over 82 games. Their head coach was fired about halfway through when a berth in the playoffs looked more like a mirage than a reality.

Then they won 25 of their last 42 regular-season games and had gone 8-4 during the postseason before Tuesday.

“It’s not always fun, but at some point the fabric of your team gets tested and over three months I’ve seen different growth opportunities present themselves,” Woodcroft, who took over behind the bench when Dave Tippett was fired, said. “One of the messages we give to our team is that the road to success is paved with mistakes well handled.

“You want to seize on those mistakes and learn from them.”

Each team has highly skilled players and a sensational offence. The Avalanche have a star defenceman, too, in Makar and that could be the difference-maker. He had a goal and two assists and now leads the Avalanche with 16 points in the postseason.

Both goalies had excellent track records against their opponent coming in. The 40-year-old Smith came in at 13-1-5 in his career against Colorado, the only club against which he had fewer than two losses. He ended up watching from the bench, though.

Darcy Kuemper of the Avalanche was 10-2-4 in 16 regular-season games against the Oilers and left in the second period with an upper-body injury after giving up three goals on 16 shots. Pavel Francouz relieved him and earned the win. He had 18 saves on 21 shots against.

The Oilers and Avalanche faced off three times during the regular season and the Avalanche won twice – once in a shootout and the other time in overtime. This one was close but much different.

“Those games were tight-checking defensive battles,” Woodcroft said. “We are going to elevate our game on the defensive side.”

The storyline may evolve differently but the narrative heading in was all about McDavid and MacKinnon. They didn’t disappoint.

The game ended with the crowd on its feet, nervous until the bitter end.

“It was just not good enough from the start,” McDavid said. “There was a lot of stuff that was self-inflicted and that we have to clean up.”